I spotted the Grand Power LP9M at SHOT Show 2023 and thought showing it in the US was a joke. 9x18mm Makarov, despite being younger than both Browning's .380acp and Luger's 9x19mm, never really took off in the US. Sure it makes sense for a company like Grand Power who has dealt with 60 countries to make something in this caliber, but would Americans take to it?
9x18mm Makarov exposure in the US has pretty much been limited to Cold-War era surplus and maybe a very limited importation of the Baikal branded civilian-oriented models. Because the Makarov pistol was heavily inspired by the Walther PPK it is direct blowback. Although not an expert, it's been my experience that 9x18mm is about the limit of what is bearable in direct blowback. 1mm more case length than the American .380acp (9x17mm) and 1mm shorter case than the German 9x19mm. Of the pistols I've shot chambered in 9x18 I wouldn't consider any of them to be pleasant. So what happens when Grand Power builds a gun in this caliber?
The LP9M is a long-slide (5.17" barrel), 13-round double-stack pistol with completely ambidextrous controls. The pistol is blow-back operated, but does not use a pinned barrel. Instead Grand Power has uniquely machined the barrel to work in what appears to be an otherwise standard Grand Power frame, complete with CNC-machined stainless-steel chassis for the internals.
The magazines appear to be the same bodies as regular 9mm Grand Power magazines, but have a spacer inserted and a shorter follower. We've seen many other companies do this to convert 9mm magazines to .380acp. Why just 13 rounds? 9mm Makarov is a fatter round, with a 0.365" diameter, taking up more space than 9mm's 0.355" bullet. Coincidentally, having a fatter bullet of the same weight makes for a shorter bullet and more potential space inside the case for powder.
Previous tests of 9mm Makarov showed it to have more energy than .380acp, but less than 9mm. Those tests were done with old and worn-out military surplus Makarov pistols. I was curious to see what kind of energy we could get from a new barrel made to high quality standards, and with a longer length (more on that in the range video).
In the box are three 13-round magazines, four backstraps, a cleaning brush, manual, and additional front sights of different heights to either adjust for loads or for preferred holds. As
with other Grand Power pistols, the backstraps effect three sides of the gun as well as the shape of the heel. They really do make a difference. I was pleasantly surprised to find that three of the four included in my order are from the newer Mk23 line of Grand Power pistols that are yet to hit the US market. These new backstraps appear almost the same, but have a more aggressive texture. Thankfully not S&W M&P 2.0 exfoliating, but a lot more than the Mk12's visual suggestion of traction. You can get a look at these and close-up of the gun in the tabletop video below.
Specifications converted from the manual:
Weight without magazine: 27.87oz
Width through controls: 1.42"
Height without Magazine: 5.26"
Overall Length: 8.66"
Barrel Length: 5.18"
Price direct from importer Global Ordnance: $599.99
The range test for this pistol had to be a little different. I only have four loads of 9x18mm ammunition because, to be honest, after the initial novelty wore off of trying 9x18mm in Soviet-era guns I didn't feel the need to have any more than a couple boxes of hollow points and a case or two of ball ammo if I ever had the itch to shoot the caliber again. Fortunately 9x18mm is still available in the US and while Russian ammunition may be scarce, and Serbian PPU threatened, there are other countries loading it. Cost per round currently hangs around $0.40/round, but deals can be found if you search. Global Ordnance, the importer of the Grand Power LP9M currently 9x18mm loads from Fiocchi, Buffalo Bore, Mesko, PPU, and Sellier & Bellot listed here.
Range testing included:
Cold Shots: Truly our first rounds through the gun.
Full Mag +1: Oddly not all firearms function well this way. It's a function of the ammunition chosen and magazine design.
What's For Dinner™: A test to see what ammunition the gun will eat. Does the gun feed the round from slide lock, will it cycle and feed another round of the same type, does the slide lock to the rear on empty, and is there any notable point of impact change with different loads. For the Grand Power LP9M I opted to also chronograph these loads and see what kind of energy we got from the longer barrel.
93gr PPU $23.50/50 at Global Ordnance
94gr Silver Bear
95gr Hornady Critical Defense $35.99/20 at Optics Planet
95gr Hornady Custom
Sights & Trigger Control: on a 6" spinner target at a distance of 12 yards. We got this from Titan Great Outdoors and use it to gauge how learnable the trigger is and usable the sights are for forced, timed, precise shots.
Practical Accuracy: Five shots from a distance of seven yards at a one inch target. This isn't so much about printing a tight group as it is a culmination of our shooting experience and time for us to collect thoughts prior to making a conclusions
After Shots: Final impressions and reflections from the range session.
Has 70 years of improvements changed the way I feel about 9x18mm? Yes. I was quitte surprised at how shootable the caliber is. The LP9M still has a little bit of that blowback snap, but the ergonomics counter most of it. Muzzle energy ranged from 264ft/lbs with Silver Bear up to 260ft/lbs with PPU, so while not as powerful as a 9x19, it's still got enough energy to make a bad guy take a time out.
I could see the Grand Power LP9M being an easy upgrade for law enforcement and militaries that that a lot of 9x18mm ammunition available. In the United States however this pistol is likely to serve a different role as a viable and comfortable pistol to use a caliber that otherwise isn't any fun to shoot. Defensive use will depend on ammunition support. I can say with confidence that I can shoot the LP9M more quickly and accurately than any other 9x18mm pistol I've tried, and it's got higher capacity than other options on the US market.